Going... Going... Gone!
Nanticoke City Continues To Disappear At An Alarming Rate
The growth of Nanticoke was directly tied to the growth of the coal industry which began in the early part of the 18th Century when Washington Lee opened the first mine in the Honey Pot section. It is difficult to imagine Nanticoke as a rural hamlet of less than a dozen houses supplied by a country store operated by Samuel P. George at the corner of two dirt tracks that would eventually become the intersection of Market and Main Streets.
The coal industry was kicked into high gear in 1869 when the Susquehanna Coal Company, which was owned by the PA Railroad, purchased the Lee Mine and began buying up all the smaller operations on the western side of the town. Within a few decades, Nanticoke grew from a tiny watering hole to a borough (1876) and eventually a city (1926).
Building space was at a premium around the turn of the 20th Century, but the city was a jumble of unnamed streets and confusing postal addresses until borough council passed a number of important ordinances that provided for street signs and definitive postal addresses to eliminate the chaotic jumble of uncertainty.
One of the greatest periods of building construction was in the ten year stretch from 1905 to 1915 when the Lincoln School, the City Building and Susquehanna Coal Company Building on W. Main Street, the Nanticoke Bridge and the Nanticoke High School were conceived and brought to completion.
The peak of Nanticoke as a center of the coal industry was in the 1920’s, followed by short decline, and again in the 1940’s when massive amounts of coal was needed to supply the government during WWII.
Nanticoke, circa 1947. The Nanticoke of the 1950’s was the culmination of a half century of almost steady growth and anyone familiar with the streets in 1910 would have found the city substantially unchanged forty years later.
The late 1960’s saw massive changes to the structure of the city. The Nanticoke Redevelopment Authority renovated many dilapidated private homes and demolished many of the obsolete commercial buildings that proved unsound and a danger to the general public.
Unlike previous years, however, the city no longer had the coal and textile industries to sustain the economy and few were willing to invest in what had become a severely depressed community. Over the next half century familiar landmarks began to disappear at an increasingly alarming rate: the State Theatre, the Leader Store, People’s Bank, the Woolworth, Newberry and the Ben Franklin Department Stores, and the Mom and Pop stores that dotted the side streets outside of the business district.
Among the recent structures to meet the wrecker is the Bartuska Furniture Annex on E. Main Street. In previous years it was the home of Plymouth Dress and had housed businesses as far back as the 1920’s.
The CVS building, a holdover from the 1890’s, was once the home of the Nanticoke Hotel, Alexander’s Department Store and Woolworth’s Department Store.
This once beautiful home on Prospect Street fell into disrepair. It was purchased by the Nebo Baptist Church and became an addition to their parking lot.This private home on Broad Street, once a center of family activity, became unsafe after many years of being unoccupied, and there are a number of other private structures that could meet the same fate.
This property, consisting of two residences and a garage, was occupied until the devastating flood of 2011. It is slated for demolition in 2013.
The structure behind the garage was once Bell Bros Produce, an important wholesale green grocer in the 1890’s.